The suspended chief fire officer of Avon Fire and Rescue Service has died.
Kevin Pearson led the service for 16 years but was suspended in July after a damning government report into how the service was run, which he described as a "witch hunt".
The 58-year-old died on Saturday after a short illness and his family said it was "distraught".
Interim chief fire officer Mick Crennell said: "This desperately sad news has come as a total shock."
Mr Pearson joined the Cleveland fire service in 1980 and became chief fire officer in Avon in August 2001, making him one of the youngest in the country to hold the post.
In a statement, his family said: "He was a kind and generous man who was happier than he has ever been and the fact that his life has been so cruelly cut short has left us all so very, very sad."
Mr Crennell said: "Although we have been aware for some time that Kevin was battling serious illness, his sudden passing has come as a huge shock to all his family, friends and staff at Avon Fire and Rescue Service.
"Words are of little comfort at such a terribly sad time, but we hope his partner Erica and his family will be able to take strength that so many at AF&RS have them in their thoughts at this time.
"The role of chief fire officer is demanding and all encompassing. As the longest serving chief in the country it truly was a testament to his ability, character and conviction that he held the post for so many years."
Mr Pearson was a trustee for The Gambia and Avon Fire Services in Partnership (GAFSIP) charity and in 2013 received the Member of the Republic of The Gambia (MRG) honour - an award rarely given to non-Gambian nationals.
Earlier this year Mr Pearson and his deputy Lorraine Houghton were suspended after a Home Office report unearthed an "old boys club" culture at Avon Fire Authority.
Mr Pearson said the investigation was a "cynical ploy" to transfer power to the police and crime commissioner and referred to it as a "witch-hunt".